Radionuclide transport in brackish water through chalk fractures

Emily L. Tran, N. Teutsch, Ofra Klein-BenDavid, Annie B. Kersting, Mavrik Zavrin, Noam Weisbrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mobility of radionuclides originating from geological repositories in the subsurface has been shown to be facilitated by clay colloids. In brackish water, however, colloids may flocculate and act to immobilize radionuclides associated with them. Furthermore, little research has been conducted on radionuclide interactions with carbonate rocks. Here, the impact of bentonite colloid presence on the transport of a cocktail of U(VI), Cs, Ce and Re through fractured chalk was investigated. Flow-through experiments were conducted with and without bentonite colloids, present as a mixture of bentonite and Ni-altered montmorillonite colloids. Ce was used as an analogue for reactive actinides in the (III) and (VI) redox states, and Re was considered an analogue for Tc. Filtered brackish groundwater (ionic strength = 170 mM) pumped from a fractured chalk aquitard in the northern Negev Desert of Israel, was used as a solution matrix. Rhenium transport was identical to that of the conservative tracer, uranine. The sorption coefficient (Kd) of U(VI), Cs and Re, calculated from batch experiments with crushed chalk, proved to be a good predictor of mass recovery in transport experiments conducted without bentonite colloids. A meaningful Kd value for Ce could not be calculated due to its precipitation as a Ce-carbonate colloids. Transport of both U(VI) and Cs was indifferent to the presence of bentonite colloids. However, the addition of bentonite in the injection solution effectively immobilized Ce, decreasing its recovery from 17-41% to 0.8–1.4%. This indicates that radionuclides which interact with clay colloids that undergo flocculation and deposition may effectively be immobilized in brackish aquifers. The results of this study have implications for the prediction of potential mobility of radionuclides in safety assessments for future geological repositories to be located in fractured carbonate rocks in general and in brackish groundwater in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114886
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bentonite colloids
  • Carbonate rock
  • Fracture flow
  • Ionic strength
  • Radionuclides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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